Council may consider changes to the heritage rebate program

By Karen Fallon

Public input is to be sought before amendments to the heritage tax rebate program are considered by council.

The current program is a voluntary program established under section 365.2 of the Ontario Municipal Act. This subsidy program provides tax relief to owners of eligible heritage properties.

Councillor Diane Pouget says council could be “putting the cart before the horse” by not gleaning input from the public before considering proposed changes.

According to a report from CAO Pam Malott and Paul Beneteau, treasurer, changes could involve creating “clear” guidelines around eligibility, process for application, approval of rebates along with any proposed capping amounts or percentage amounts.

“I would prefer it to go before a public meeting and wait to see how the public responds to this,” said Pouget, who noted that when seeking prior advice of the town’s heritage committee it isn’t always accepted by council.

Councilllor John Sutton says he can see where the confusion could stem from as that some of the former suggestions made by the committee are not possible.

“The committee did make some recommendations,” says Sutton, who added that one of the major ones was not “doable,”

“They suggested that we apply the heritage rebate to designated homes in the proposed district,” said Sutton. “The way the Heritage Act reads we can’t do that arbitrarily, so their suggestion was not doable.”

However, noted Sutton, public input is “certainly” going to be a part of the process.

“Any time you change a bylaw there has to be a public meeting where people can come forward to voice their concerns with the changes,” he continued.

“I think this a very complexed and convoluted path that we are going down in relationship to making something work that the community will be very interested in,” said Davies, who added that she would like the heritage committee to look at possible changes before it goes to the public.

“We have to be careful that we are honing in on some of the realistic options,” she said.

The report notes that any changes to the bylaw must be circulated to the County of Essex and Province of Ontario for approval.


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